The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,…
I. We are to show THE EXTREME FOLLY OF TRUSTING TO ANY RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES, WHILE OUR HEARTS REMAIN UNRENEWED AND OUR LIVES UNHOLY. On what ground can we rely on the continuance of God's favour under such circumstances? Should we, because a friend had conferred many benefits upon us, and forgiven us many offences, be justified in supposing that there would be no limit to his endurance? Yet the Jews — and their case is not singular — seemed to claim a special right to the continued favour of God, in virtue of their religious privileges; not considering that those privileges were a free gift; that they might at any time be withdrawn, without a shadow of injustice; and that while they lasted they were intended to operate, not as inducements to presumption, but as motives to love and thankfulness and obedience. They had in themselves no spiritual efficacy. Neither the character of God, nor His promises, held out any ground of hope on which to build such a conclusion. It would not have been consistent with His holiness, or wisdom, or justice, that the sinner should escape under the plea of any national or personal privileges, however great. And His promises, both temporal and spiritual, were all made in accordance with the same principle. "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments and do them...then I will walk among you, and I will be your God;...but if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments,...I will set My face against you." The whole tenor of God's providential dispensations is likewise to the same effect. And accordingly, the Jews, great as were their national mercies, found on numerous occasions that they were not exempt from the just displeasure of their Divine Governor. Yet, with all these proofs of God's righteous judgments, their constant cry was, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord": they caught hold, as it were, of the horns of the altar with unhallowed hands; and, notwithstanding the threatenings of the Almighty, were ever prone to trust in those external privileges. At the very time when they were committing the grievous enormities of which the prophet Jeremiah convicts them, they were zealous for the outward worship of God, and boasted highly of their religious profession. But could any folly be greater than that of supposing that this insincere worship could satisfy Him who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins? The prophet forcibly points out the extreme folly and delusiveness of such expectations: "Go," he says, "unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first; and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called unto you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh." Having thus considered the extreme folly of trusting to external privileges, while the heart is unrenewed and the life unholy, we are —
II. TO SHOW THAT THIS FOLLY IS TOO COMMON IN ALL AGES; AND THAT WE OURSELVES, PERHAPS, ARE GUILTY OF IT. How many pride themselves in being zealous Protestants, or strict members of the Established Church, or regular attendants on public worship, while they live in the spirit of the world, and without any scriptural evidence of being in a state of favour with God! How many trust to the supposed orthodoxy of their faith; or to their zeal against infidelity, enthusiasm; while they are ignorant of the scriptural way of salvation, and indifferent to the great concern of making their calling and election sure! How many cherish a secret hope from the prayers of religious parents, the zeal and piety of their ministers. In short, innumerable are the ways in which persons deceive themselves on these subjects; fancying that the temple of the Lord is among them; and on this vain surmise remaining content and careless in their sins, and ignorant of all true religion. Now let us ask ourselves, in conclusion, whether such is our own case. On what are we placing our hopes for eternity? Are we resting upon anything superficial or external; upon anything short of genuine conversion of heart to God? True piety is not anything that can be done for us; it must be engrafted in us; it must dwell in our hearts, and show its blessed effects in our conduct.
Parallel VersesKJV: The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,